All over England public bodies are meeting together in secret to come up with plans to cut £2.3 billion off the annual NHS budget by 30 March 2017. For example here in north west London a Strategic Planning Group (SPG) has been formed to produce a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). Members of the SPG include representatives from eight Local Authorities, eight NHS CCGs and 11 NHS Trusts. The STP has to be completed by 30 June 2016.
The STP must specify how existing local NHS debts are eliminated, how 7-day NHS working is implemented, how hospital beds will be replaced by care at home, how A&E units will be replaced by Urgent Care Centres, and how healthcare and social care will be integrated. The failing 2012 ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ cost–cutting project is being ‘folded’ into the STP.
If the plan is not produced or is rejected, access to new NHS funding will be denied and a new SPG leader appointed by national NHS bosses.
Creating these public bodies’ ‘supergroups’ has not been the subject of an Act of Parliament. There has been no public consultation. No-one has produced any evidence to indicate that this radical STP initiative will or might improve healthcare and social care services – or in fact will or might achieve the targeted cost savings.
Over the last 10 years 10,000 hospital beds have been lost across the country. In the 12 months up to September 2015, 1,500 care home beds have been lost. Care at home has become discredited by constant stories of under paid care workers only being able to spend 15 minutes per patient.
Far from spending less in healthcare we should be spending much more. The UK spends 6.8% of GDP on its healthcare. In Germany it’s 10.3% of GDP. In the UK we have 3 hospital beds per 1,000 people – in Germany it’s 8.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people.
The UK is one of the richest countries in the world. We ‘invented’ publicly funded healthcare and social care services. Why can’t we collectively look after our citizens’ health especially those unable to look after themselves? After all a healthy population is a happier one and a more productive one.